National Universal Credit Roll-Out
Starts February 2015
Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith surprised commentators with an announcement that Universal Credit (UC) will be rolled out to all Jobcentres and local authorities in the UK by February 2015 following the apparent success of the pilot scheme that was originally trialled in the North West.
Many Universal Credit detractors predicted that nothing significant would happen, before next year’s General Election, however, Iain Duncan Smith stunned everyone by announcing that Universal Credit will be rolled out to all Jobcentres and local authorities across the country, starting February 2015.
Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith said:”Universal Credit is a vision for a new welfare settlement; a welfare state fit for the 21st century; a testament to the hard work of Jobcentres and local authorities that we are now implementing it. It has now rolled out in the north west of England – to couples, shortly to families, to more than 1 in 8 jobcentres by Christmas – safely and securely as I always said. Today I can announce that we are going to accelerate the delivery of Universal Credit from the New Year, bringing forward the national rollout through 2015/16 to every single community across Great Britain. Secure national delivery, yet at the same time, delivering that life change at a local level; strengthening community partnerships, helping vulnerable households. Not just helping the economy but reducing child poverty as well. This plan will ensure Universal Credit is established across Great Britain with new claims to legacy benefits closed from 2016 – with migration to follow thereafter.”
Although the Universal Credit (UC) rollout will be limited initially to single claimants, as it was in the North West of England, there is a distinct possibility that the DWP will attempt to extend things to couples within a short timeframe.
The North West trial was beset by problems, providing a good indication of what PRS landlords across the country can expect in the coming months.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) says the announcement is very important news for PRS landlords and housing associations alike and has warned private rented sector (PRS) landlords that it is time to stop planning and start getting ready for Universal Credit.
Housing benefit expert, and RLA Universal Credit trainer, Bill Irvine has been dealing specifically with the Bolton branch of the pilot scheme and, although concerned that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) are not quite ready for a total Universal Credit roll out, he makes some important points for landlords to remember.
- There is little point in conjecture, Universal Credit is coming and it’s time to make sure landlords are ready.
- Universal Credit could potentially impact on 1.6 Million housing association and private rental sector tenancies so it is imperative that the Government benefit programme is ready to handle such demand.
- The dedicated Universal Credit team in Bolton struggled to understand and cope with some of the housing cost issues.
Problems occurred with some of the most straightforward claims and a relatively low number of overall potential claims. So if DWP is experienced such difficulty in Bolton, it is likely that there will be similar problems elsewhere, making a national roll out incredibly optimistic.
- Landlords need to familiarise themselves with the rules of the Universal Credit scheme to mitigate any potential rental losses, because the new benefit regime is much harsher with backdating of claims made incredibly difficult and only available for one month prior.
Full details can be found on the HMRC Gov website about the national roll out of Universal Credit
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